Slice of Canadian medical history hits Grand stage
Tempting Providence, now playing at the Grand Theatre in London, tells the story of a nurse caring for people in the tiny towns located along Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula, and it's a show that's not to be missed.
The play is a look into the little stories that made up the life of Nurse Myra Grimsley, a Canadian medical hero. Grimsley was an Englishwoman sent to Newfoundland in 1921 on a two year contract to bring medical aid to the people living in the isolated area. The residents had never before had formal medical care, and with such a small population, everyone knew everyone. When Nurse Myra — referred to simply as “Nurse” throughout the play — arrives, it takes a bit of getting used to for the residents and the nurse herself.
The play follows Nurse's service in Newfoundland, where she extracted 5,000 teeth and delivered 750 babies. It was at her second delivery on the coast where she met the man who would later become her husband, Angus Bennett. At times funny, at other times harrowing, and charming throughout, this true story of the life of Grimsley is one that captivated the audience from start to finish. Tempting Providence tells a story about the transition from feeling lost in a new place to finding that sense of home and comfort, a sense of knowing you're exactly where you belong.
The cast of four people is remarkably talented and a true joy to watch. Deidre Gillard-Rowlings plays the part of the no-nonsense Nurse with true skill — Gillard- Rowlings performed the part for the 500th time on March 18, and that dedication is clear on stage. Her real-life partner Darryl Hopkins captures the spirit of the lovable Angus Bennett.
The two are joined on stage by the incredibly versatile Robert Wyatt Thorne and Willow Kean, who both portray a number of different characters. Both are talented performers who make each character unique.
The cast works beautifully together, shifting the minimal set into positions to turn the four chairs, table and bed sheet into a ship, a kitchen, a clinic, a carriage. They make you believe that the sheet becomes a lump of bread dough, a piece of clothing, a baby. The set, and the way the characters interact with it, is one of the highlights of the show.
If you're not familiar with Newfoundland accents, it may take you a little while to understand what the characters are saying. The warmth and joy of the Newfoundland spirit is present in each of the cast members. This play is a wonderfully told story of a Canadian medical hero, and it deserved the standing ovation it got the night I saw it. It's not to be missed, particularly if you're in Fanshawe's Nursing program and want to see how your profession can have a real impact on your patients and the community they live in.
Tempting Providence runs from now until March 31. For tickets, head to grandtheatre.com or call 519-672-8800.